A Guide to Syriac Authors

The Syriac Biographical Dictionary (SBD), Volume II

Editors: David A. Michelson and Nathan P. Gibson, Vanderbilt University


by David A. Michelson

A Guide to Syriac Authors is a literary reference work documenting authors relevant to the study of Syriac literature. This guide is designed as an aid for both historical research and cataloguing. The entries in the guide are written to help researchers identify and disambiguate authors related to the history of Syriac literature. This author list can be browsed or searched based on numerous criteria including chronology, geography, and relationships between persons and texts. A Guide to Syriac Authors is also designed to meet the pressing need for a name authority file for use by librarians in cataloguing Syriac manuscripts, texts, and published works.

Each individual entry in A Guide to Syriac Authors corresponds to one person who can be identified as an author. These entries are also included in Syriaca.org's larger database of persons, The Syriac Biographical Dictionary (SBD), so that researchers interested in prosopography more broadly will have access to the same entries. The sole criteria for inclusion of a particular author in A Guide to Syriac Authors is relevance to the study of Syriac literature. "Relevant authors" include not only persons who wrote in the classical Syriac language or modern Neo-Aramaic dialects, but also a broader range of authors (ancient and modern) whose works have been translated into Syriac or otherwise influenced Syriac literature. For example, relevant entries have also been made for authors who did not write in Syriac but who are named or cited in Syriac texts. Entries have also been created for authors in dialogue with Syriac literature who wrote in the many languages neighboring the Syriac traditions (Arabic, Armenian, Malayalam, etc). There are no temporal or spatial boundaries for the database, which collects data on authors from any period past or present useful for Syriac studies, from authors credited in Syriac biblical translations to members of the contemporary diaspora communities. Similarly, historicity is not a selection criteria, thus A Guide to Syriac Authors includes entries on pseudonymous, uncertain, anonymous, or collective authors when they are of significance for research on Syriac culture. In all cases, inclusion of an author is based on the collection of sufficient citation information to uniquely distinguish each identity. All authors with entries in A Guide to Syriac Authors can be annotated to show their relationships to persons, places, or other data published by Syriaca.org such as in The Syriac Gazetteer.

As a sub-collection within a larger reference work, The Syriac Biographical Dictionary (SBD), A Guide to Syriac Authors was designed with the same information structure. All entries must include at least one specific primary or secondary source citation sufficient to identify and disambiguate the person. Most entries also contain name variant information. When possible some entries contain greater biographical detail although such detail is not the foremost goal of the publication. The overarching purpose is to provide a unique identifier (a URI, uniform resource identifier) for each Syriac author to facilitate cataloguing of Syriac literary works and the creation of linked data in which author URIs will enable linking not only between Syriaca.org's Guide to Syriac Authors and its forthcoming New Handbook of Syriac Literature but also to external partner projects such as the manuscript catalogues of e-ktobe (Manuscrits syriaques), the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, and The British Library. These person URIs take the form http://syriaca.org/person/\d+ (where "\d+" indicates a unique string of one or more numerals). As an example, http://syriaca.org/person/13 represents the noted Syriac author and saint: Ephrem the Syrian.

All entries from this reference work are encoded following the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), a best practice used widely in digital scholarship on literary corpora. In addition, the person records of A Guide to Syriac Authors are also serialized into other data formats for use by other projects. For example entries are exported as MADS records and included in OCLC’s The Virtual International Authority File.